This Canadian American Mourns the Public Option

Canadian Flag / CC BY-SA 2.0

On the cusp of the U.S. healthcare vote, I am in the throes of a family health crisis in Canada, offering many moments to consider the “evils” of universal healthcare—like a public option.

This week my Canadian brother-in-law, Bruce, had a bone marrow transplant in a last-ditch effort to kill his leukemia. He is a 46-year-old union guy who likes motorcycles, hockey, beer, bad jokes and looks (much to my glee) a lot like Freddy Mercury. He has been with my sister for 14 years and they have three daughters, two dogs and have taken only one vacation that involved an airplane (Toronto, family wedding). He’s neither wealthy nor connected, but Bruce has full heath insurance like every other Canadian, and through his union he has extended disability (not a rare occurrence, as approximately 33 percent of the Canadian workforce is unionized versus about 10 percent in the U.S.).

To pay his medical bills so far, Bruce has at no point needed to produce a credit card, a bank statement,  pass cash under the table or coerce family members to run marathons to fundraise. And what would his bone marrow transplant alone cost in the U.S.? A random Google search indicates a price tag of about $100,000 – $250,000.

But what about the dreaded waiting that plagues these socialist health care systems?

On a Thursday last November, Bruce took his daughter into the local storefront walk-in clinic in his small town, Mission, British Columbia, because she had a bad cough, and the doctor convinced him to have a blood test as well because he wasn’t looking so good. The next day the lab and the doctor called to tell him to be at the regional hospital in Vancouver on Saturday for a bone-marrow biopsy. On Sunday, chemo started. When the chemo failed, the search for a donor started, and marrow was flown in last Friday from Europe. So much for that long wait.

Meanwhile, evidence continues to mount about the failures of the U.S. system of health care. Illness and medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy. Even with approximately 45.7 million uninsured, we spend far more on healthcare (and get less) than nations with universal healthcare. For women the reports are even bleaker, especially if you’re older or not white: Latinas were  twice as likely to be uninsured for an entire year compared to white women, and getting married seems like the best route for older women to get insurance.

But facts don’t seem to matter in our healthcare debate. Even Sarah Palin admits she has benefited from Canadian healthcare.

When Bruce walks out of the hospital in several weeks, he will still have health care coverage. For the rest of his life. No questions asked, no forms that would disqualify him or his family.

So tell us again what was wrong with having a public option in the U.S.?

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